Wednesday, August 8, 2018


Research conducted at Princeton University studied if there was a possible link of modern pygmy population that lives in an Indonisian island. On this island it was found hobbit remains or scientific name Homo floresiensis fossils. (1)
H. floresiensis  were on average 3.5 feet tall, these short hobbits lived 17,000 years ago. The fossils recovered where not well preserved and scientists found it difficult to extract DNA that was viable for testing. Once DNA was sequenced they wanted to compare that to the modern pygmy population that are on average 15 inches taller then H. floresiensis, the thought that they may have similar ancestry.
They decided to develop a tool that would "help find archaic genetic sequences in modern DNA".(1)
There was this thought that since many humans share DNA from Neanderthals, and even Denisovans that just maybe these modern pygmy people have H. floresiensis DNA.
"But if you want to look for another species, like Floresiensis, we have nothing to compare, so we had to develop another method: We 'paint' chunks of the genome based on the source. We scan the genome and look for chunks that come from different species -- Neanderthal, Denisovans, or something unknown." said Serena Tucci (1)
After looking through 32 modern pygmies Tuci states " they definitely have a lot of Neanderthal, and a bit of Denisovan. We expected that, because we knew there was some migration that went from Oceania to Flores, so there was some shared ancestry of these populations."
No Homo floresiensis  was found in these people suggesting the modern pygmy population evolved independently.
"Islands are very special places for evolution, this process, insular dwarfism, resulted in smaller mammals, like hippopotamus, and elephants, and smaller humans. This is really intriguing, because it means that evolutionary, we are not that special," Tucci said. "humans are like other mammals, we are subject to the same processes."
This I believe is an important step to helping know our place in the world. We are subjected to environmental changes like any other species and adapt to survive.


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Neurodegenerative disease found in monkeys

A disease in monkeys have been found that mimics a neurodegenerative disorder in people; specifically children. A population of Japanese monkeys were found to carry a mutation in the CLN7 gene and the disease is called Batten disease. It affects the nervous system by affecting lysosomes in cells. The function of lysosomes are to break down waste, but when the gene is mutated, lysosome produces a broken form of the protein which results in the buildup of "junk." This disease starts during childhood with symptoms such as vision loss, seizures, and eventually, the loss of cognitive functions. With the discovery of Batten disease in monkeys (which are closely related to humans), Oregon Health and Science University can perform gene therapy and discover ways to cure the disease or slow it down.

I personally think that this is the start to finding a cure for the Batten disease and any other diseases. When we discover that another animal has the same type of disease humans do, we can use this information to develop solutions.

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Can Lung Cancer Bio-markers Predict My Prognosis?

Are biomarkers a way of the future for predicting and diagnosis diseases? According to Dr.Peter Mazzone who is the director of the lung cancer program at the Cleveland Clinic believes so. Biomarkers can identify the genetic mutations that cause the diseases, which can tell us in the future if the patient is at possible risk of having lung cancer in the future, or if the patient has it and what can we do to treat it or how long someone can survive with the cancer itself.  Now doctors can access these biomarkers by what is called liquid biopsy, which is basically getting the DNA from the blood. There are many other techniques to obtain these biomarkers, but each day doctors are trying to find more and more less invasive ways to get a sample of the tumor. Doctors are isolating gene mutations from the samples. 
We have come so far in the world of biology and genetics that we just keep creating new and innovative things for the future to better our health.

Bones Show Dolly's Arthritis Was Normal For a Sheep Her Age

It was reported that Dolly the Sheep suffered from severe arthritis in her knees. New x-ray evidence shows that cloning was unlikely the reason for this arthritis. Other cloned sheep along with Dolly's naturally conceived daughter, Bonnie, were also x-rayed. Results revealed that Dolly had the joints of any normal sheep her age, cloned or not. Dolly had arthritis in her hips, knees, and elbows, which is common in sheep. Dolly, Bonnie, and two other cloned sheep, Megan and Morag, had their bones examined. After examination, it is suggested that Megan and Bonnie, who were older than Dolly at their time of death, had more damaged bones whereas Morag who was younger at death had less bone damage. Overall, Dolly's arthritis levels were equal to those of any normal sheep at her age, suggesting that cloning wasn't to blame. It is thought that her "creaky" joints are a result from giving birth to six lambs.

It is interesting to learn more about Dolly considering every biology student has heard about this famous sheep. I did not know the details of her health such as the arthritis but it is good to know that there is evidence supporting the cloning did not affect that aspect of her health and that it was just due to pregnancy which is common for sheep after giving birth. 

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Bradyrhizobium Benefits

     Researchers at the University of California - Riverside, have discovered growth benefits caused by a beneficial relationship between pea plants and the microbe, Bradyrhizobium. Through experimentation, they concluded that they could not increase the relationship between the plants and microbes by making changes to the plants' environment (through fertilizing). However, they did find that certain plant variants experienced increased benefits. 

     Knowing this, researchers can now examine "good" variants of the plants and their relationship with Bradyrhizobium. By identifying the best variants, researchers and breeders can work towards breeding a plant that maximizes its relationship, and therefore benefits with the Bradyrhizobium microbe. This would help reduce the amount of chemical fertilizers being used, and help maximize the relationship benefits for each plant. 

Study: Ancestry Seekers Accept, Reject Certain DNA Results Based on Race Biases

By: Alexa Lardieri

A study published in the American Journal of Sociology showed that 59% of participants who buy at home DNA tests, reject the results and do not change their views of their identity after receiving DNA results...even after receiving new results. People who did embrace their new identities, "cherry-picked", as in they only picked the ones they wanted to embrace. "They embraced identities they viewed ass positive and thought others would accept as well. Some test results  were rejected or ignored if participants did not like them, according to the Guardian". 
They were looking as the genetic information as not definitive and were allowing their social influences to cause them to overlook the information presented to them. For example, a mexican-american participant found out he was really native american, celtic and jewish ancestry after taking a DNA test, however only embraced his Jewish heritage. 
The study also found that White participants identified with their new ancestries and were more likely to embrace their new identities. "They were really excited to try on this identity that made them anything other than just white..they can try it on mention it when it's to their advantage and ignore it otherwise." 


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Cancer cells engineered with CRISPR slay their own kin

Laurel Hamers

In a study done with mice, gene editing has been shown to trick cancer cells into attacking themselves. They were able to make the tumor cells secrete a protein that triggers a death switch in resident tumor cells and then self-destruct on their own. Although this isn't the first study done to fight cancer with cancer,  this study uses a gene-editing technique  called CRISPR/Cas9 to manipulate the offensive-line cells which gives them the ability to self-destruct. 
Researchers had to try multiple approaches to get this to work, however the engineered cells reduced the size of tumors in mice compared to the mice that didn't get the treatment and those who got the treatment lived longer. They still have far to go with this research before it can be used in a clinical setting and if they were able to give someone's foreign cells to a patient, that could lead to rejection and other complications. gene-edited cancer cells


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High High in the Sky

In Sweden's Lund University scientist conducted research on two birds the Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) and the Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio) to measure the acceleration, barometric pressure, and temperature as they migrate from Sweden to Africa.

They found that these Small birds both flew at higher then expected altitudes, almost 4,000 meters in the air. The Great Reed Warbler at top high flew at 3,950 meters and Red-backed Shrike at 3,650 meters. These are values that shocked the scientists.

"It is fascinating and it raises new questions about the physiology of birds. How do they cope wih the air pressure, thin air and low temperatures at these hights?," says Sissel Sjoberg, biologist at lund university and the Zoological Museum in Copenhagen. (1)

SIssel Sjoberg hypothesizes that other smaller birds also fly at these extreme heights, and may even fly higher when they migrate back during the spring. These birds are no taller then a Budgie, they amount of specialization and evolution that went down to allow for their tiny bodies to withstand such forces amazes me. It does not seem possible but this new information has given rise to more questions.